Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Faculty of Education, La Trobe University, Bundoora"
Government concerns about the low performance of Vietnamese secondary school students studying History have led to this original inquiry into reasons and factors affecting the quality of teacher professional development in Vietnam. Reflecting this investigation through Engeström’s Activity systems theory will allow an examination of human interactions in a particular context. Using an interpretive approach, this qualitative study investigated the experiences of sixteen participants including teachers, officials and trainers in Hanoi City, Vietnam. Data were collected in focus-group and individual semi-structured interviews. The aim was to identify problems in teacher professional development that impeded improvement in teaching and student academic performance desired by the Vietnamese government. Analysis of findings from focus group and individual semi-structured interviews revealed that teachers preferred class observation as the most suitable professional development activity. All participants acknowledged systemic problems of funding and adequate resources. Systemic issues of time allocation and remuneration to attend professional development activities and the variability in the quality of professional instructors and curriculum were perceived as impediments to effective teacher professional development. Several recommendations emerged from this study. These include: auditing teachers’ learning and skill needs prior to undertaking professional development; teachers and school principals to take more ownership; change to salary, appraisal and promotion systems for History teachers; online professional development and wider variety of professional development approaches. The significance of this study is that it placed teachers at the centre of professional development enabling them to contribute to improvements in professional development activities. With a limited research sample confined to one educational district, findings are not generalisable. Further research with larger samples in different locations with a broader range of data collection instruments and methods will be required. All participants are acknowledged for providing views and recommendations for improving professional development activities for secondary school History teachers in Vietnam.
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